The Celtics defeated the Pelicans, 108-100, Monday Night at TD Garden (box score here).
In a back and forth game which featured 14 lead changes, the Celtics were finally able to protect a late lead and seal a victory in the final frame.
Pelicans forward. Anthony Davis scored a game-high 34 points in the loss. Jared Sullinger led the way for the Celtics scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Davis is a superstar
Given the Celtics inability to cover big men, it was expected that “Le Brow” would dominate the game and light up the stat sheet. For the first three quarters, the Celtics did a great job of containing Davis, limiting to him to only 21 points. But in the fourth quarter, the NBA’s second-best player took over, scoring 13 points over the final 12 minutes.
While it might not have shown up in the box score, Davis had a huge impact throughout the game as the Celtics were keenly aware of his mere presence on the court. Celtics’ drivers were extremely hesitant to even attempt shot in the paint due to the big man. In the pick-and-roll, the Celtics seemed to overplay Davis, leading to Eric Gordon scoring a number of points at the rim.
Jared Sullinger is ready to step up
With the recent trades, Jared Sullinger is now the most talented player on the Celtics. Just like Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green before him, Sully was the final Celtic to be announced during the pre-game introductions. Sullinger had a great night, scoring 27 on 9-17 shooting. He was dominant on the offensive glass, accounting for six of his 10 rebounds. He did an excellent job using his large posterior to keep Davis from getting position deep in the paint.
Stevens’ rotation still confuses
In the first two games after Jeff Green was traded, Brad Stevens stuck with a nine-man rotation. It appears that was the plan going into the night, but early foul trouble from Kelly Olynyk and poor play from Tyler Zeller forced Gerald ‘The Human Digeridoo’ Wallace into the game.
Surprisingly, the Pelicans were unable to capitalize during the few minutes Wallace played the five. Stevens, who refuses to play the same rotation twice, brought in Marcus Thornton as his first man off the bench. He also finished the first with a bizarre small-ball line-up that featured Bradley, Turner, Smart, Jae Crowder, and Sullinger. Rookie James Young played just under 10 minutes, contributing two points.
Crowder is a potential long-term piece
The more you watch Crowder, the more you like him. Prior to the game, Brad Stevens noted Crowder’s incredible toughness as well as the energy he provides on both ends of the floor. Monday night, Crowder displayed a solid mid-range jumper early in the first quarter. He played tough defense, especially early in transition, which created a number of fast break opportunities. He moved well with out the ball and showed a tremendous ability to explode towards the basket. Crowder had a nice old school give-and-go with Sullinger in the third quarter where he passed up an open jumper before cutting to the hoop for an easy dunk.
Crowder finished with a career-high 22 points. He also had four steals and two blocked shots.
Crowder is set to become a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but given his performance in his short time with the team, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Celtics make a big push to re-sign him.
Marcus Smart is a project
The sixth pick of the draft is still a project.
Defensively, Smart is a physical beast who is more than willing to get into the body of his opponent and move him off his spot. In the second quarter, Eric Gordon made the mistake of trying to get by him with a power move, Smart did not back down and took the charge.
Smart still struggles to run the offense, sometimes making poor decisions while passing. The offense generally slowed down while he was the sole ball-handler. Overall, Smart contributed a very solid 30 minutes. While he continued to shoot the ball poorly, he was able to hit a huge three-pointer in the final minute that sealed the victory for the Celtics.